With the MLB season now over a third of the way through, you start to see the contenders and pretenders already begin to show themselves.
We already know the Chicago Cubs are for real, but we knew this going into this season, as they were a 97 win team a season ago. The Cubbies are on one torrid pace thought! At 40-16 on the season, Chicago is on a roll to win around 115 games, if they keep it up. That’s one hell of a clip to keep. I don’t expect 115 to happen, but 105 doesn’t seem like a stretch to this point, being they’d have to play better than .600 baseball(.613 to be exact), which to this point, the Cubs have a .714 winning percentage. That seems like an easy task, but as the other contenders(Pittsburgh and St. Louis, mind you, Wild Card Contenders) in the NL Central start getting better, Chicago could see some bumps in the road, but not enough to send them spiraling out of the NL Central lead.
Here is the theme in the NL so far to this point: great pitching means great teams, which means playoff teams. Chicago, New York, Washington, San Francisco, L.A. are the tops pitching ERA’s in the league, let alone the NL. To be fair, the NL always has lower ERA’s, but it validates a point in the National League. Those top 5 teams, with the exception of the Dodgers, would be in the playoffs, if the playoffs started today, with L.A. only a half game behind Pittsburgh for the 5th best record in the National League. Hitting is great and the American League,(especially a team like Boston) can win shoot out if they need to, but even Boston could struggle more than most AL teams. Of all the playoff contenders in the AL(Baltimore, KC, Cleveland, Texas and Seattle all give up less runs than the Red Sox. The “long ball” and getting a lot of runs is fine and dandy in the regular season, but as the MLB postseason proves time and time again, pitching is King!
The Cubs are the overwhelming favorite and rightfully so, but getting caught in a 5 games series, with a team you don’t match up with, is a problem for any team, even if a team wins 100 games or more. Ask the 2015 Cardinals, the 2011 Phillies, and even go back a few years and include the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won 116 games and didn’t lose in the ALDS, but in 5 games to the Yankees in the ALCS. That year, the Mariners led the league in runs scored and fewest runs allowed. So even if the formula is right, it’s still the MLB postseason and anything can and usually will happen.
From overwhelming favorite to high risers, I bring you the Houston Astros. Keep an eye on this young club. Got off to a horrible start, but have been playing well as of late, especially the last 10 games, winning 8 of those. Texas has been playing well and to some extent, Seattle, but Houston was left for dead after April and find themselves now 8 games back of the AL West lead. I’m curious to see what the lead looks like at the end of June and I won’t be surprised if Houston has cut that lead in half, by July 1. Dallas Keuchel, though with an ERA over 5, has showed signs in last 10 starts. Keuchel may have a few inflated run type starts, but he is an innings eater, pitching into the 6th inning or later in all but one of those games. Houston is giving Keuchel time to figure out his mechanics and it’s seeming to pay, even if it’s at a slower pace. Houston won’t be too patient though, Keuchel can’t do this all season long, but I think he rises up and shows spells of what made him and AL Cy Young Winner last season.
Featured Image by: Elvis Kennedy
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